Monday, October 7, 2013

Why You Should Get Naked and Invite Everyone Over Sometime

Act #279:  It's OK to be vulnerable.

This past weekend I attended the wedding of one of my best girlfriends, and had the pleasure of spending two days with her new husband's family who hails from Northern Michigan - the Upper Peninsula ("the U.P.") to be exact.  Can I just tell you how much I love this family?  Everything about them - their graciousness, warmth, the way they pronounce the word about ("aboot").  Among many things I learned about them over the weekend, by far, the most fascinating was their love for saunas.  "Love" actually doesn't really quite describe just how important saunas are to this family, and most U.P. families with deep Finnish roots.  In the late 1800's, Finns flocked to the U.P. because of the plentiful mining jobs, abundance of farm land, and the cold, cold weather.  And they brought with them, their saunas.  In fact, when they first settled, the first structures built were not houses, but saunas. The sauna provided everything families needed to survive - protection from the elements, a stove on which to cook, benches on which to sleep, and of course a bathing facility. Many families lived in the sauna through their first winter and only then, would they begin to build their houses in the spring.  The sauna served as both social event and cleansing time. Farms that had a sauna would take turns inviting the entire neighborhood over for weekly sauna time.  They would breathe in the heat and allow it to purify their bodies by opening pores and letting the toxins flow out of them.  And in the midst of this ritual, they would tell stories.  They would connect with one another in a way that only being completely bare and vulnerable allows you to do.  So it didn't surprise me one bit to learn that my friend and her new husband already have plans to build a Finnish sauna in the basement of their new house located just outside of Cincinnati. 

In just a few minutes I will get ready to jump in my single person shower, alone - because I'm not quite ready to get naked and vulnerable just yet AND because, as usual, I'm running late.  But as I breathe in the hot steam, I will take a moment to reflect on all that I am missing at that precise moment: community, family, renewal, purifying, cleansing, vulnerability.  And someday when my friends (hopefully) invite me over to their new basement for sauna time, I will take that as the biggest compliment in the world.

Excerpts from "It's a Sauna Thing, You Wouldn't Understand" by Jeff  Smith,

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